Freshwater ecosystemsâ€“lakes, rivers, and the smaller ponds and streamsâ€“make up only two percent of Earth’s water resources, and only one percent remains drinkable. Learn more about the planet’s freshwater and how you can protect what’s left.
This site is for those people who are interested in learning about the threats to our soils and measures to prevent and remediate against soil degradation. The site is linked to research that is being undertaken by the EU funded RECARE project.
Soil functions are threatened globally by a wide range of processes, and in Europe, a number of threats have been identified in the European Soil Thematic Strategy. The challenge is to prevent degradation and its adverse effects on soil functions and ecosystem services, while simultaneously improving livelihoods.
Our aim for the Hub is to provide information and guidance to help practitioners, researchers, policy-makers and the wider public to understand the impact of soil degradation upon soil functions and ecosystem services and to identify innovative measures to prevent and remediate against soil degradation.
If you are interested in learning about specific soil threats, you may find it helpful to start on the Soil Threats pages for an overview of different processes that impact our soil. If you are interested in more detailed guidance for assessing soil degradation or learning about management measures to prevent and remediate against soil degradation, these are provided under Tools and Outputs.
Results: Using corn and soybeans as their testing ground, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised methods to peer into the mechanisms that modulate crop yield variability. They used statistical models to examine how climate variability impacts yields of these popular bioenergy crops at the county level. Among climate factors, the team showed that temperature is predominant in corn-growing counties, both by volume and percentage of production. Precipitation has a similar impact. The amount of energy from the sun, or radiation, has a much smaller effect USA-wide on both soybeans and corn.
To understand the impact of management practices, the research team designed and conducted numerical modeling to reveal how irrigation and fertilization affect crop yield variability. Averaged over the USA, fertilization has a larger impact than irrigation. The work demonstrated that dynamically determining fertilization timing and rates in their models can greatly improve the predictive capability for yields of both crops.
Tight budgets, limited resources, new regulations, unexpected problems, citizen concerns, â€œto doâ€ lists that stretch over decadesâ€”stormwater management at the community level is often about how people collaborate and make day-to-day decisions. When faced with a new technology, program managers need to know whether it will mesh with the culture of their organization. Will staff and contractors understand how to install the new systems? Do they have the resources on hand to build them? Can they be maintained without blowing the budget? Will they protect water quality and help meet regulatory requirements?
In 12 years of working alongside communities, we have found that the answer to such questions is â€œyesâ€ when two essential ingredients are present. The first is a communityâ€™s capacity to evaluate innovative designs and practices and make them their own. And the first depends on the secondâ€”a local champion with the respect, trust, and power to put new science-based stormwater management technologies into practice and inspire real cultural change for the future. These case studies illustrate what can happen when these necessary ingredients for change meet some of the biggest challenges faced by stormwater managers nationwide.
Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. Worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, these subtle flecks of life are the source of all existence. Like tiny time capsules, they contain the songs, sustenance, memories, and medicines of entire cultures. They feed us, clothe us, and provide the raw materials for our everyday lives. In a very real sense, they are life itself. Yet in our modern world, these precious gifts of nature are in grave danger. In less than a century of industrial agriculture, our once abundant seed diversityâ€”painstakingly created by ancient farmers and gardeners over countless millenniaâ€”has been drastically winnowed down to a handful of mass-produced varieties. Under the spell of industrial â€œprogressâ€ and a lust for profit, our quaint family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a monstrous scale. Recent news headlines suggest that Irish history may already be repeating in our globalized food system. Articles in the New York Times and other mainstream sources report the impending collapse of the worldâ€™s supplies of bananas, oranges, coffee and coconutsâ€”all due to a shortsighted over-reliance on a single, fragile variety. Without seed diversity, crop diseases rise and empires fall.
More than a cautionary tale of â€œman against nature,â€ the remarkable story of seeds is an epic â€œgood-versus-evilâ€ saga playing out in our modern lives. For eons, cultures around the world have believed seeds to be our birthright: a covenant with the earth shared by all and passed down across generations. But today, our seeds are increasingly private property held in corporate hands. A cadre of ten agrichemical companies (including Syngenta, Bayer, and Monsanto) now controls more than two-thirds of the global seed market, reaping unprecedented profits. Genetically modified crops (GMOs) engineered in their sterile laboratories dominate farmersâ€™ fields and dinner tables in the United States and countries around the world. Farmers from Minnesota to Madhya Pradesh, India toil in economic thrall to the â€œGene Giants,â€ paying hefty licensing fees to plant their patented crops. If they attempt to save their own seed at the end of a season, following a tradition practiced by humans for over 12,000 years, they face ruthless prosecution. (Suffering under this indentured servitude, over 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide in the last 20 years.)
People everywhere are waking up to the vital importance of seeds for our future. In recent months, March Against Monsanto protests have rallied millions in more than 400 cities and 50 countries to the cause of seed freedom. Ballot initiatives to label genetically modified foods have been proposed in U.S. cities from California to Connecticutâ€”a direct threat to the profits of the Gene Giants and their Big Food cronies. Seed libraries, community gardens, and a new generation of passionate young farmers are cropping up to shift the balance toward a more sustainable and sovereign seed paradigm. A David and Goliath battle is underway, and the stakes couldnâ€™t be higher.
Herbicide-resistant “superweeds” change their mating strategies over time, an evolutionary shift that helps them hold onto valuable genes and outcompete other plants, according to a new study from University of Michigan researchers.
The study examined the relationships between plant mating systems and herbicide resistance in the common agricultural weed morning glory. The researchers found that morning glory populations that have evolved resistance to the herbicide Roundup rely on self-fertilization more than susceptible populations do.
Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics. In the past generation, Americans have witnessed the introduction of genetically modified crops, the rise of the organic food industry, increasing concerns about obesity, growing awareness to food allergies and other health concerns linked with what people eat, an expanding volume of best-selling books and publications about food and the proliferation of premier chefs as superstars in popular culture.
Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nationâ€™s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
This Nonpoint Source Success Stories web site features stories about primarily nonpoint source-impaired waterbodies where restoration efforts have led to documented water quality improvements. Waterbodies are separated into three categories of stories, depending on the type of water quality improvement achieved:
Type 1. Stories about partially or fully restored waterbodies
Type 2. Stories that show progress toward achieving water quality goals
Type 3. Stories about ecological restoration
Microplastics are increasingly seen as an environmental problem of global proportions. While the focus to date has been on microplastics in the ocean and their effects on marine life, microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked. Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding potential consequences of microplastics in agricultural landscapes from application of sewage sludge.